Issue 1: Research Festival

Happy Death Day: Revisiting Feminism in Abortion in the Chinese Context 

The artist seeks to explore a new perspective on abortion based on feminism. By making it possible for a wider audience to participate in the search for a new perspective on abortion, the patriarchy’s devaluation and natural stigmatisation of women who have had abortions can be dismantled.

The scope of abortion discussed in this article is a personal choice in cases of unwanted pregnancy. It does not include cases where abortion is forced by patriarchal ideology or unjustified abortions arising from a lack of sex education and rational sexuality.

I. Interpretation of Abortion in the Chinese Context

From the legislative point of view, Chinese civil law defines the status of a fetus as a subject of law by the “independent breathing theory”, that is, if a fetus leaves the mother’s body and successfully breathes independently, even if it breathes for only one second, it must be considered a subject of civil law and has the corresponding civil rights.

From a moral perspective, abortion was once more widely accepted due to the influence of family planning. But nowadays, abortion is seen as an openly ‘taboo’ subject, which can have a very negative impact on the public image of the person concerned. It seems that there are many negative descriptions behind such an act: indiscretion, lack of self-love, etc.

Therefore, in the Chinese context, abortion is not considered illegal in the conventional sense, but it seems to be an “immoral” act.

2. The Meaning of Abortion from a Feminist Perspective

The author believes that the significance of abortion from a feminist perspective is to prove that women have the right to choose and the courage to do so.

When I discussed feminism with a male friend, he said, unconvincingly, that women are naturally more sensitive and empathetic than men. Is this really the case? No, this is not an innate ability of women, but rather the result of being taught over and over again by “valuable” social experiences passed down from generation to generation in a patriarchal society. It seems that this is the only way women can be called women. And it is funny that when a woman displays the opposite characteristics – such as heartlessness or a lack of empathy – she is either praised for being “like a man” or criticized for being “not at all like a woman”.

But the socialization of women is actually more of a curse, using women’s empathy and altruism to force women to think for their own good as a sin. Women are taught from an early age to understand the violation of their boundaries and to hide their needs in order to please others. When the entirety of a person’s worth is staked on her selflessness, she becomes an object in the service of others, a natural concession of her rights as a subject. Abortion, however, is a search for the individual subject, a return to the identity of the self. In patriarchal societies, women are reduced to reproductive values. Abortion is therefore stigmatized as a form of self-defeating and devaluing of women. When we discuss abortion, we are in fact discussing a valuing of the needs of the self, which implies that women, having re-examined the social context in which they live, still choose a path that is more beneficial to their long-term development.

Of course, what I am discussing here is not the ignorance of using abortion as a means of contraception due to the lack of sex education, but whether a woman can break free from the traditional social rules that have long been imposed on her when abortion is a more favorable choice for her, and whether she can have the courage to face the more far-reaching implications behind this choice.

3. Abortion Deconstructed in a New Perspective

In the author’s view, abortion in the context of unwanted pregnancy is something to be celebrated. It means that the woman has the autonomy to control her body and the right to carry out her future. At the same time, as the woman is not yet physically or psychologically ready to accept the new life, abortion itself is a manifestation of responsibility for the new life.

In the conventional sense, abortion always seems to be accompanied by purely negative emotions. It is true that there is so much emotional stress and physical suffering behind abortion that it is a perfectly normal psychological reaction.

But if abortion is deconstructed as the preservation of a woman’s existing order of life and her responsibility for the future of her new life, it takes on a new positive meaning. It will become a symbol of women’s full autonomy and a badge of courage to rebel against traditional rules and regulations. Through this new perspective on abortion, the author hopes to liberate women’s negative perceptions of abortion and assuage the negative emotions of women who have had abortions. At the same time, I also hope that by deconstructing abortion, I can update society’s views, correct the possessive perceptions of some men towards women and create a more friendly public opinion environment.

4. Conclusion

“In any society, the degree of women’s emancipation is the natural measure of universal emancipation”.


In the author’s view, when women can choose abortion comfortably after an unwanted pregnancy, it is also an important sign of social progress and feminist development.


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About the author

Jie Shen graduated from Camberwell MA Fine Art: Computational Arts in 2022.